Tag Archives: debt

Blog #2: Debt and the ethics behind the value of the dollar

David Graeber grabs the issue of debt by its neck in exposing the simplicity behind the relationship between the creditor and debtor. He first explains a conversation he had with a woman where the center of topic regarded the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and how they push countries into debt. The young woman had trouble comprehending why countries couldn’t pay back debts they had pushed themselves into. Graeber said that the IMF convinced third world countries to take loans (during a period of go-go banking) with low interest rates. They then during the late 80s and 90s, these third world countries encountered problems paying back their debt and the IMF enforced policies regarding their domestic control over services such as food reserves and limiting public services.

Graeber continues and presents the example of his time in Madagascar and that before he lived there, there was an outbreak of malaria. The government took action and created a mosquito eradication but due to financial issue, had to cut off the program which led to 10,000 deaths. Also Graeber focused on how it is not the debtor’s fault at his/her inability to pay off the loan but rather the lender (the banks). It is because of the “risk” that banks lend out loans. Without the risk, there would be no opportunity to make gains from interest.

My take is that the value of money has been replaced by the “digital value” of money. What I mean is that it has taken on a new form, not physical but rather numerical. We’re encouraged from banks to create new credit card accounts because statistics probably show that they would profit more from individual’s debts. Some individuals do not understand the principal of needs and wants and they cannot afford what they want and take on debt for simple gratification. Very few understand the value of the dollar. So unlike David Graeber I blame the debtor or individual, however you wish to classify it. But an equal share of blame should be placed on the banks. The high risks of NINA Loans are the primary cause of the housing bubble and instigator of the ongoing global economic crisis.

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Blog#6: House of Sand and Fog

The film “House of sand and fog” that we viewed in class had so much to do with what Durkeim and Weber’s key concepts were outlining so many centuries ago. When it comes to Durkeim, anomie is very apparent in the film. Anomie stresses the lack of moral regulation. Colonnel Behrani was abusive towards his wife. This made her have great anomie and she was petrified of him. Also, Behrani grabbed Kathy by the arm with great force and left a mark. He clearly lacks moral regulation.

Egoism is also present here or the lack of integration into a social group. Kathy hears her brother’s wife is pregnant and they are starting a family. Kathy feels as if her life isn’t up to speed and her husband left her so she doesn’t know where she fits within society. Also the Behrani’s aren’t sure if they are going to be deported back to Iran or not based on Officer Lester Burton’s threats. Sacred and profane issues are also present. The home is sacred to both Behrani and Kathy. The Behrani’s don’t want blood drippings or dirt in their home and Kathy doesn’t like people smoking in the home. The home connects these two different persons and it becomes their identity in a way.

Profane issues are present because they are following a routine of working and providing for themselves (the protestant ethic). Authority is also present which is Weber’s concept. The officer exercized his authority by threatening the Behrani family with deportation due to the housing situation. Class and status issues are also present. Col. Behrani is used to being of higher standing in Iran. He’s used to people adhering to his agenda. Kathy isn’t used to not having a home because she inherited this house. Both people are exemplary of Durkeim’s and Weber’s key concepts.

In-class Movie

I was just making flash cards for all the terms we’ve learned or gone over during the semester and when I got to chapter four, on Max Weber the terms made me focus a lot of the movie we just watched. The terms are bureaucracy, class, status and party that really jumped out at me. This movie had such a focus on class consciousness. The characters main focus was about their class, and although the two main characters are very different- they do have some similarities that are evident.
Kathy and Behrani lie to their families about their money issues, and put up a front to act as if they are doing well, and do not need any help. They both make it seem as if they have everything under control until it all spirals out of control. They are both overwhelmed, and instead of coming clean or getting help it seems as if they dig themselves deeper. The whole reasoning is to keep their debt a secret. They don’t care who they step on to get where they need to go, whether it be not returning the house or using the officer to Kathy’s advantage to get what she wants/needs. The movie somehow feels like a small episode of survival of the fittest, the person who is able to battle it out the most will remain the keeper of the house.
It’s kind of funny how when you watch a movie on your own, you don’t dissect it to understand all the underlying messages but once it’s brought to your attention then it’s as if you can’t notice anything but this.

Blog 1: Should we Cut Government Funding of Individuals Completely?

After reading the article “Even Critics of Safety Nets Increasingly Depend on it” by Binyamin Applebaum and Robert Gebeloff it was interesting to see how an average middle class person views government spending on each individual of society on how it provides healthcare and funds. What I found so interesting is how the people of Chisago were displeased with the fact that the government shells out millions of dollars on people who choose not to live within their means, and thus “waste” government funds sort to speak, as well as those such as themselves who are able to provide for themselves and their families. For instance in the article Mr. Gulbranson explains how he is able to provide for his family and doesn’t need the extra funding from the government, which he feels should go towards decreasing debt and increasing government savings, although he still amasses a whopping $6,583 as all other individuals in his county were provided with. Furthermore this extremely interested me because the people, including Mr. Gulbranson are so unhappy with the notion of collecting government money for themselves, but on the contrary what average middle class american has almost an extra 7,000 dollars lying around? I think if the government just stopped providing for its citizens that $6583 for each individual the majority of society would go broke. What Mr. Gulbranson and the rest of Chisago should be thinking about is instead of cutting the safety net completely and receiving no funds, maybe each year a slight decrease on the funds they receive is applied, and those who are choose not to provide for themselves will have a time period in which they can get their act together before they lose all government providing. One thing is for certain though, if society as a whole does not figure out a way to reduce the funds each individual receives, eventually there will be no money left once the government debt reaches its ceiling, and people will go broke left and right.

I, Capitalist (accounts from a life under the empire) by Teresa Smith

This piece comes from Slingshot, a quarterly, independent, radical, newspaper published in the East Bay (CA) .  In this personal narrative, Smith talks about her attempt to understand the allure and power of money — and how to “evolve” beyond it.

When I was a kid, I used to watch my mother soak things in hot, sudsy water and then pick the price tags off with her fingernails.

Sometimes, I wish I could soak my soul in that water, that I might cleanse myself of all reminders of the cost of things.

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A few weeks ago, I was sipping tea with my favorite Marxist–he bought me the tea cuz I’m hella broke–and I was telling him how I’d been offered a job that pays $50 an hour, but I was thinking about not taking it.

“Why not?” he asked. “You need that money.”

I had been jobless for over a year, and to survive, I’d been borrowing money from the people I love. My friends were running out of slack, though, and if I didn’t find a job soon, I’d have to move out of my coveted Berkeley attic corner (I pay $215 a month to live in a drafty rat-infested attic with 3 other people) and move back in with my foster parents in the cultural desert of Seattle Suburbia.

“I just don’t think I should start working yet…” I grappled to explain. “I mean… being jobless is teaching me something… something about value, about capital, about the way money moves people… and I think… I’m close–really close–to figuring out what money really is.”

“No, Teresa,” the Marxist gazed at me with intensity. “Money is a magical and elusive thing. You could spend your entire life studying it and never figure out what it is.”

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But still, I couldn’t stop thinking about money, about the symbols we use to represent value.

In the mid-1800s, Karl Marx devoted himself to the study of capital. So desperate he was to understand the ebb and flow of value that he quit working and spent every waking hour in the London library, studying. He wrote thousands of pages about the way Capitalism works, creating perhaps the most comprehensive explanation of an economic system ever.

But in his manic efforts to understand it, Marx neglected to participate in the system he was trapped in. …and the Beast of Capitalism punishes nonparticipation without mercy.

As Marx wrote, four of his children starved to death.

Read the rest here.

Blog 2: Thirty More Years of Hell

The opening quote really struck me: “I wouldn’t want to be twenty-years-old now. I fear for what’s coming.”-Hunter S. Thompson, 2003. Considering that I am turning twenty this year, this scares me somewhat. The future of our nation is scary and ever changing. Nobody can predict what’s to come because the future is unknown. On that note; I found many interesting points throughout this piece. First off, I found it interesting how the author started off with the debate between capitalism and socialism. This generation has warmer feelings about socialism (49%) than capitalism (46%). 69% of Millennials think teachers aren’t paid enough. They skew to the left on cultural and social issues. The ultimate conclusion that Journalist Doug Henwood came to is “this may be the most left-thinking younger generation in modern history.” Clearly the younger generation has been ever changing because the world of politics is ever changing. The Millenials are the ones who are going for the left-wing alternative.

I found it interesting how socialism was defined as “either compact fluorescent light bulbs or massive corporate-welfare checks.” Cold War propaganda contributed to this view. Our lives are so saturated with media that it influences how we perceive certain issues and the world in general. I appreciated the college tuition discussion here because I can relate to it. Going back to the days where CUNY was a tuition-free prestigious school system is no longer possible. Student loan debt is an issue faced by many of my peers including myself. Pell Grants covered 77% of the cost for a four year public university. It’s scary to know the reality of the situation of student loan debt when suddenly the government garnishes your wages which ultimately puts more stress on the student-worker who also has other expenses.